China reduces the length of the international traveller quarantine.
China on Tuesday slashed the length of its mandatory quarantine for inbound international travellers by half - reducing it to a week from 14 days - in the biggest change to its Covid-19 containment policy yet, signalling a gradual reopening of its borders. Under the updated policy, international travellers will need to quarantine for seven days at a government-designated facility, usually a hotel, followed by another three days of isolation at home. The country reported one locally transmitted and 21 asymptomatic Covid cases for Monday. Tuesday’s announcement marks a huge change in China’s current stringent policies for international travellers but the curbs - overall 10 days of restrictions on movement – are still comparatively tough, especially in contrast with countries that have fully withdrawn quarantine and testing requirements. China closed its borders at the end of March 2020, and since then has only allowed a handful international flights into the country, including special and chartered flights. Questions remain about the new policy: For one, it might be months before international air passenger traffic normalises though many airlines are in talks with the Chinese civil aviation authority to resume flights. Also, it remains to be seen if the new changes are scaled back should there be another outbreak, especially if it ends up being linked to an incoming international flight. The official announcement, shared by state-run Xinhua news agency, said that under the updated Covid-19 control protocol, “close contacts and inbound [travellers] will be under medical observation in isolation at designated sites for seven days plus three days of in-home health monitoring”. “This is an obvious length cut compared with 14 days of medical observation in isolation at designated sites plus seven days of health monitoring at home stipulated by the previous edition of the protocol,” the Xinhua report added. It added that individuals “deemed to have had close contact with Covid-19 close contacts” will face seven days of medical observation under home quarantine, instead of seven days of medical observation in isolation at designated sites. “Under the new protocol, China will increase the frequency of nucleic acid tests for individuals with direct contact with inbound [travellers], goods and environments to one time a day,” it added. Wang Liping, a researcher at the communication and prevention division of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told state media that shortening the quarantine period does not mean “relaxation” of prevention and control measures but further optimisation of prevention and control measures according to the characteristics of the Omicron variant. The new rules were welcomed by American, British and European business lobby groups in China, Reuters reported. “It will hopefully work towards increasing business exchanges and stemming the outflow of international talent, some of whom are coming up to having had three years of separation from family and friends overseas,” the British Chamber of Commerce in China told Reuters.